A Nonprofit Energy 
Research Organization

The Need

The Sustainable Energy Project is a non-profit research and demonstration organization aimed at helping manage the transition from today’s top-down central-utility paradigm toward tomorrow’s decentralized paradigm, including extensive use of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs).   DERs may include several components, including:  renewable, customer-owned electricity generation, space heating, and process heat; energy storage (including batteries, thermal storage, and flywheels); automated "smart" meters, inverters, controls and thermostats; electric vehicles with both charge and discharge capability; and extensive communication systems and capability.  DERs could be deployed on individual residences and businesses, or at the community or regional scale - posing the opportunity to redefine how energy consumers or their agents would interact both physically and institutionally with existing utilities. DERs could also allow consumers to self-provide all their energy, raising the possibility of homes, businesses, and entire communities leaving the utility grid.  

DERs offer considerable promise - safer, more reliable, environmentally benign, and economic sources of electricity.  But they also offer controversy - the question of whether DERs should be owned and operated by utilities, , or whether customers retain the right to specify, own, and operate any technologies they install on their side of the electric meter.  This core debate will occupy considerable attention from regulators, utilities, and consumers in the coming years.  Additionally, customer-owned DERs may allow customers to leave the utility grid if they choose, posing the threat grid flight  to existing utilities and energy companies, their employees, shareholders, and stranded ratepayers.  SEP's goal is to facilitate a smooth, measured, and well-informed transition from today's utility infrastructure vested in the technologies of the last two centuries, toward a new infrastructure designed to embrace and encourage the technologies of today and the future.  Our role will be to identify major trends in the sustainable energy field, asses the probable barriers and challenges they will provoke (political, technical, and regulatory), and facilitate an objective, fact and research-driven dialogue to asses impacts, mitigate conflicts and minimize barriers to entry.